Successful Leadership as an Architect
Late one winter night, under a bare bulb in an empty under-heated DC university dorm room I read Leadership Is an Art by Max De Pree; a book that influenced my approach to leading others from that night forward.
Earlier that day, our hosts at the 1992 American Institute of Architecture Students Grassroots conference gave each student leader a copy of the inspirational paperback following a motivational speech about leadership. Full of excitement, eager to make a dent in my own corner of the universe (and a serious introvert, too scared to socialize with any other conference-goers), I hurried back to my room and read the book from cover to cover.
It was during that week at the AIA National Headquarters where I learned how to lead others by encouraging them, supporting them and working to enable them to reach their full potential and ability. I don’t think the term Servant Leadership was used during that conference, but the lessons learned during that event would forever change me as a leader.
“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” (greenleaf.org)
Leading by serving others has always come naturally to me. I could not imagine leading any other way. I have learned throughout my many years in the profession that successful leadership as an architect requires that we follow certain rules of engagement. Treat people with dignity and respect. Make it your top priority to serve them, so that they have the knowledge and resources to succeed.
There are 5 principles of Servant Leadership.
Lead by example. The people you lead will work to the standard that you set through your own actions and words. Encourage others to serve by your example as servant to them. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Live your mission and your team will too.
Listen. Learn from the ideas of others. Actively solicit the participation and feedback from every member of your team. Take time to know each member on a more personal level. Learn about their background, understand their influences and you will be better at leading each member with a clear perspective of who they are… as people.
Teach. Take time to be a mentor for your team. Provide the necessary education for the work being performed and make “teaching through doing” part of the DNA within your firm. Lead with the intent of making every member of your team a better player, as well as a better person.
Be persistent. A culture of servant leadership is not born overnight. Understand that the results of your leadership will take time. Be consistent and set clear expectations. Establish the systems required for the development of positive routines and encourage healthy personal habits.
Be understanding. Set clear standards of excellence, but understand that failure is an essential element of team building. Mistakes happen, and when they do, use those moments as an opportunity to lead by example and enroll the 4 other principles of Servant Leadership above.
By dedicating yourself to the success of your team and putting the needs of your team above your own, you will develop powerful long-lasting relationships that will take you and your firm to greater overall success. Serve others with all your ability and they will thrive… and rise to your standards of excellence.
Question: What are some specific examples of Servant Leadership from your experience?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Greg Epperson